A Yale senior loses his way on Long Island, and three generations suffer the consequences in this haunting latest from Hoffman (The Ice Queen, 2005, etc.).
Convinced that he’s the true love she promised herself as her father lay dying, orphaned 17-year-old Arlie Singer seduces John Moody moments after he stops to ask for directions. Stunned by his recklessness, the normally cautious and tidy John hightails it back to college. But Arlie will not be denied, so they are married too young, have baby Sam too soon and, after John’s parents move to Florida, are trapped full-time in the Glass Slipper, an all-windows house designed by his father, a famous architect. John ignores his own brilliant, odd son and hardly ever comes home from work. Arlie, realizing she’s made a terrible mistake, falls in love with George Snow, who washes the Glass Slipper’s windows. She won’t leave Sam, even after she has George’s baby—John, typically, seems oblivious—but she’s stricken with breast cancer and dead at 25. Sam grows up angry and bereft; at 16, he has a full-fledged drug habit, and even his devoted ten-year-old sister Blanca can’t keep him in the house he hates with the father he loathes. Hoffman spins a grim fairy tale, complete with an unsympathetic stepmother (Cynthia, who was sleeping with John before Arlie died) and a strange nanny (Meredith, who follows John to Connecticut because she’s the only one besides him who sees Arlie’s ghost hovering around). But while unsparingly depicting the awful damage unhappy people inflict on each other, the author refuses to provide villains; even clueless, thoughtless John is at heart terrified and remorseful. His final actions suggest that it’s never too late to see the truth, and that terrible mistakes can sometimes be at least partially atoned for—but this is a very sad story. Nonetheless, the ending offers hope for Blanca and a surprising posthumous redemption for desperate, doomed Sam.
Achingly beautiful and filled with heart-wrenchingly real characters: one of Hoffman’s best.